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5 Common Mistakes Newbie Flippers Make

Believe it or not, Tarek and I started flipping houses with very little experience in investing. We were real estate agents for many years, so we thought we knew the real estate world – including investing – backward and forward.

Little did we know, there was a lot we needed to learn to become successful flippers. Needless to say, we made many mistakes along the way, and I’m sure some of them could have easily been avoided.

As a flipper, especially if you are brand new, you will make mistakes. Don’t get discouraged if you mess up, it happens to all of us.

But learning how to avoid mistakes in the first place will save you valuable time and money. Here are five ways you can take your flipping experience in the wrong direction – and how to sidestep these common errors.

Underestimating your repair costs

Unfortunately, this is one of the easiest mistakes you can make as a flipper.

When starting out, most flippers have very little idea how much renovating a property will actually cost, and they end up budgeting a random amount.

I’ll be the first to admit that accurately estimating repair costs is not easy. Even after years of investing, Tarek and I still sometimes underestimate repair costs.

More often than not, you won’t see repairs or know about them until you actually start renovating. If you don’t plan for these hidden repairs in your budget from the get-go, it can be really frustrating having to scrounge up extra money to finish your project.

I recommend working with a contractor when estimating repair costs, as they will be able to get a much more accurate estimate than you will. Tarek and I also add an extra 10-percent buffer to our budget to give us peace of mind when unexpected repairs show up.

Not having a set plan

I know many newbie flippers who find a good deal on a house, make an offer, and then they come up with an action plan after they purchase the house.

I hate to break it to you, but this is not a smart idea! While I know that finding a good deal is exciting and often hard to pass up, you need to have your investing strategy set in stone before you start buying houses.

Once you know your plan, you’ll be able to tell which homes fit within your plan, and everything will fall into place.

Listing your finished flip too high

After investing countless hours, and a large chunk of money, you’ll obviously want to sell your flip quickly so you can make a profit on your hard work.

But if your flip ends up going over budget, takes longer to complete than planned, or makes less money than you were expecting, you could be tempted to list the house for more than you can easily sell it for.

If your flip sits on the market for more than a month, people will begin to wonder what’s wrong with it, and then it will be impossible to sell. You may end up losing money because you can’t get rid of the house.

When deciding on a listing price, compare your flip with comps in the area and base your price on them, even if it means losing money.

I promise you’ll be better off in the long-run if you can get the house off your hands fast.

Hoping to get rich quick

Flipping is not a get-rich-quick scheme. As with any other form of long-term investing, it takes time and patience – and in this case, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

Many newbie flippers begin flipping houses with the hopes of making a profit easily and quickly, only to find out that it requires way more time and money than they had anticipated.

If Tarek and I wanted to make money with very little effort, we certainly wouldn’t have taken the flipping route. We decided to flip houses because we love real estate and enjoy the renovating and remodeling process.

Avoid falling into the trap of hoping you’ll get rich quick through real estate investing by making sure it’s something you actually want to dedicate a lot of time, money, and hard work to – before you start.

Doing everything by yourself

Many flippers think they can do everything on their own, but one of the keys to being a successful flipper is having a team of experts to help you along the way.

I recommend that you start with a real estate agent, home inspector, appraiser, lender, attorney, and a contractor on your team, and then expand once you get your business going.

Starting out with essential team members will help things run more smoothly, and will prevent you from taking on everything by yourself.

Investing in real estate is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. Learn how to avoid making these mistakes from the beginning, and you’ll be on your way to flipping success before you know it!



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12 Security Tips for Living Alone Safely

Living alone has its benefits. No race to the bathroom to get ready in the morning. Sole control of TV and takeout choices. A pants/no-pants policy, as you see fit. But there are also some drawbacks, security not least among them.

The number of people living alone is on the rise. “The most recent [census] reports show that around 14 percent of Americans live alone,” says Sarah Brown, a security expert at Safewise, “and it’s been increasing more each year.”

It’s mildly depressing and a tad unfair, but the fact is, when you’re living alone, you’re often seen as a more vulnerable target for home invasion. And it makes sense: when you’re solo, it’s you versus intruder(s), no best friend, roommate, or partner – who’s also incidentally a Jiu-Jitsu champ – to help defend your turf.

Most people don’t have the time to set up an elaborate “Home Alone”-style party every night in an attempt to deter criminal activity. But everyone should make time to gather expert security tips for living alone.

So whether you’re loving the freedom of solo domestic life or bunking with seven of your best friends, here are a dozen ways to make it safer.

Light it right

Lighting is a huge safety factor – just get it right. “Outdoor lighting is a huge deterrent for intruders, or even just people snooping around,” says Brown. “But don’t leave your lights on for 24 hours a day. It can actually attract burglars to leave your lights on during daylight hours.”

The same goes for interior lighting. “It’s natural for people to have the lights off in the day and on at night. Anything else can be a signal that you aren’t home,” notes Brown.

Extra lights on when you’re alone at night can create the illusion someone else is there. (Just keep it to one or two rooms, because, you know … the environment.)

Go get gadgets!

Motion sensors and timers are cheap ways to create the illusion of more occupants, but there are other gadgets you might not have heard of.

David Nance, a personal safety expert and CEO of SABRE, recommends something like a TV light simulator. “This is a little device about the size of a coffee cup, using the same amount of energy as a nightlight, that mimics screen and light changes produced by a real HDTV.”

Meaning if you’re upstairs taking a shower, you can create the illusion that someone else is downstairs watching TV.

Make like Kevin McCallister

The “Home Alone” idea actually isn’t ridiculous. Nobody needs to know you’re alone. Things like lighting and gadgets can help, but there are also some simple tricks.

For women especially, “an amazing psychological and simplistic deterrent is to take a pair of men’s size 13 or 14 work boots and leave them in front of the door,” says “Security Sensei” Jordan Frankel of GlobalSecurityExperts. Another simple deterrent: “a giant dog’s water bowl.”

The principle applies when you’re home with a stranger, too. “Whenever you’re having someone over to repair your home, you should invite at least one other person over,” says Brown.

Another nod to the power of the pooch: “Even having a dog with you can decrease the likelihood that you become a target,” she adds.

Lock safety #1: Don’t make assumptions

We tend to trust locks implicitly. And when we move somewhere new, most of us don’t do a lock overhaul.

“Just like when you check into a hotel, they give you a key and most people assume ‘I’m safe. I can lock my door,'” says veteran security expert Chris McGoey, aka “Crime Doctor.”

“But you have no idea who has the keys. In an apartment situation, you’re also assuming your landlord has changed the locks, but that assumption is false in many cases. Landlords often don’t change locks. There could be 20 keys out there,” McGoey advises.

Hound the landlord once you move in, and make sure those locks are new.

Lock safety #2: Get reinforcements

You’re living single, you want a strong door – and a deadbolt often isn’t enough. “They’re designed to keep an honest person out, not a dishonest person,” says Frankel.

His company produces what they call OnGARD, basically a door brace that takes your standard door to the next level. “When the two pieces [of the door brace] are mated together, no one can kick in the door from the outside, because at this point the door can withstand up to 1,800 pounds of force.”

Lock safety #3: Don’t forget to actually lock it!

“Always lock your doors,” says Nance. “Even if you’re just running to get your mail or take out the trash. It only takes someone a split second to slip into your home or apartment while your back is turned.”

And whatever time you’re home alone, lock it up. “Nearly half of all intruders enter through the front or back door,” says Brown, “and that could be any time of day.”

Burglars pose a threat at all times of day.
Afraid of the dark? Remember burglars pose a threat at all times of day.

Up your window game

Frankel actually calls windows “the weakest link in your security plan.” He doesn’t recommend bars, however, as “they can be a fire hazard if you’re trying to get out.”

Instead, Frankel recommends installing “high-quality glass protection film,” which basically “disperses the shock wave” of someone trying to smash the glass to the frame itself. “And if the film fails, it’ll still keep the glass in a spider-web effect, meaning if they try to continue to get in, they’re going to be injured by something very sharp.”

If you’re living alone on a ground floor, a reinforced window is your best friend.

No security system? Fake it ’til you make it

“A lot of burglars look for signs of heightened security before deciding on a target,” says Nance. And when you’re living alone, a security system is a great investment.

If you can’t afford one, you still have options. “If a security system isn’t in your budget at the moment, we still encourage you to display security signs or decals, as well as fake security cameras.”

“Signage is very important,” Frankel agrees. “A sticker is better than nothing. And even going a step further, you can get that kitschy signage that says stuff like ‘Forget the Dog But Beware of the Owner.’ If burglars want an easy target, you won’t seem like one.”

Use the Internet and social media wisely

You may be living single, but there are online communities that can keep you informed about crime in the neighborhood. Nance recommends you “check police blotters …. There are also a number of websites you can use, such as CrimeReports.” Community message boards are also a useful tool.

There are also online ways to be less vulnerable, like not bragging about your upcoming vacation, and the little-known option of opting out of Google Earth.

“I highly recommend this,” says Frankel. “Through Google satellites, every home in the U.S. could be visible to a burglar.” Basically, someone could theoretically case your place from far away with a laptop and a cup of cocoa.

“Contact Google and have your home removed,” Frankel advises. The image of your home will remain, but appear blurred.

Know thy neighbor

Just because you’re on your own doesn’t mean you have to be alone.

“Always get to know your neighbors,” says Brown. “The more people invested in your lives, the more likely they are to report an incident they see, to call the police if you need help, to watch your house while you are on vacation, or even to let you back into your home if you ever get locked out.”

Chatting with the folks next door can mean you’ve got someone on your side in an emergency.

This assumes, of course, your neighbors themselves are trustworthy, and that decision often comes down to a matter of instinct and observation. Speaking of which …

Get your nose out of your phone!

Situational awareness is a great defense, but especially if you’re out alone – and heading home alone – it’s super important to pay more attention to your surroundings than your Instagram feed.

“Do an experiment for yourself,” says McGoey. “Go out in public and look at people. A lot of people have their heads down, looking at their phones.” Not paying attention makes you an incredibly easy target.

“Just paying attention goes a long way,” says McGoey. “Most victims never see the perp coming, and it’s one of the primary reasons they were selected.”

Psychology is half the battle

Even if you are a black belt, your individual mindset is an essential defense in solo security.

“Everyone I’ve ever interviewed in interrogation rooms, they all say the same thing,” says Frankel. “The person’s home they broke into, that person had the mentality ‘It won’t happen to me.’ It always happens to somebody else, until it happens to you.”

This isn’t intended to stoke the flames of paranoia and end all neighborhood block parties as we know it, but especially if you’re living alone, it’s important to have a certain amount of vigilance mixed in with your neighborliness.

After all, when you’re living alone, you’re your own best defense. (But a huge guard dog would be awesome, too.)


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An Insider's Look at Santa's House

When Santa claimed his home on Zillow, updated the home’s facts, and uploaded photos and a video walkthrough, we wanted to learn more about his house. We tracked down the people in charge of Santa’s 2013 remodel – interior designer Mary N. Bright and general contractor Doug Fir – and asked them to spill the details.

What motivated you to take on this project?

Mary N. Bright (MNB): Santa is synonymous with the holiday season. He has inspired people around the world to change their home decor for at least one month out of the year. How could I say no to a challenge like that?

Doug Fir (DF): This is a man who appreciates fine craftsmanship and woodworking. One look at his gorgeous log home, and I knew I had to get my hands on it. This was my chance to impress the jolly old elf and get on the nice list for good.

How did you incorporate Santa’s style into his house?

DF: I didn’t want to compete with the rustic vibe of the cabin that Santa himself built. So I found ways to enhance that atmosphere with outdoor elements. I brought grandeur to the mantle with floor-to-ceiling river rock, since the fireplace is such a large part of Santa’s background.

More windows and skylights were incorporated into the new open concept design, making the home feel more spacious – especially for his many tiny guests.

MNB: I wanted to meld Santa’s iconic festive style with his wintery wonderland surroundings. That’s why you’ll find so much fresh greenery, knotty pine furniture and cozy linens all throughout. I call the look Falalala Fabulous.

Santa's Kitchen Table

Which area of the home proved to be the most challenging?

DF: Definitely the garage, which was converted from a rinky-dink one-sleigh space to a grease monkey’s dream. Not only does Santa have dedicated parking for his all-weather sleigh, but he has room to work on it, too.

He was very specific about his needs for the area. I had to create space to accommodate a specialty lift, as well as NORAD Tracks Santaincorporate an intricately wired system for the Elf Launch Staff who communicate with NORAD* for sleigh-tracking purposes on Christmas Eve. Who knew he was such a garage enthusiast?

MNB: For me, it was the living room. Doug created this masterful fireplace and I needed to match its stateliness with decor that could keep up – without overpowering the space.

That’s why I mixed in just a few statement pieces around that mantle: 17th-century German nutcrackers, lanterns Santa used on a camping trip with Teddy Roosevelt, and a lovely painting by Mrs. Claus herself.

Santa's Living Room

What inspired your designs?

MNB: There were so many wonderful pieces around the home that Santa had picked up from his world travels. One item that served as my muse was an apron with a Scandinavian print that he got for Mrs. Claus in Sweden. That helped inspire some of the Nordic elements that you see in the kitchen.

Santa's Kitchen

What’s your favorite element of the design?

DF: Before Santa hired me, the area above the dining and living rooms was closed off. Opening it up gave the house a whole new look, with more room to breathe. So I’d have to say the lofted ceilings is my favorite feature in the house.

MNB: Doug’s addition of the lofted ceilings allowed me to suspend a custom-made light fixture over the dining room table. I adore that piece. I commissioned it to be modeled after the property’s landscape.

Santa's Vaulted Ceilings

Want the full tour? See more photos of Santa’s house. 

Feeling inspired to put festive cheer in your home?

See how you can get Santa’s look with our five decor ideas for the holidays.

Get Santa's Look In Your Home


*Endorsement by the United States Department of Defense or NORAD is not intended nor implied.


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2-Bedroom Rentals for Less Than $2,000

Finding spacious two-bedrooms for a decent price seems like a thing of the past in popular metro areas. But have no fear, you can still have extra space and enjoy city life without having to skimp on amenities.

These two-bedroom rentals include fantastic views, generous perks, and plenty of space to live comfortably – all for less than $2,000 a month.

Tampa, FL

502 S Fremont Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
For rent: $1,875/month


This 2-bedroom nestled within a historic district features a private balcony, lush carpet and vinyl flooring. You can opt to rent a furnished unit, and enjoy outdoor amenities such as a garden and picnic area.

See more Tampa rentals.

San Diego, CA

11505 Windcrest Ln, San Diego, CA
For rent: $1,953/month


This modern space boasts plank flooring, a built-in microwave and all-white cabinets. A fireplace, stucco ceilings and large window are additional perks, along with a sliding glass door that leads to a private balcony.

View more San Diego rentals.

Austin, TX

4330 Bull Creek Rd, Austin, TX
For rent: $1,825/month


Everything is bigger in Texas, and this apartment offers a spacious kitchen featuring an island, stainless steel appliances and plenty of cabinets. A work space with built-in desk, tile flooring, a carpeted living area and French doors leading to the balcony make this space a steal.

See more rental listings in Austin.

Madison, WI

306 W Main St, Madison, WI
For rent: $1,925/month


Waterfront living awaits in this stylish home featuring a private balcony and two-tone paint schemes throughout. Plank flooring runs throughout the living areas, while carpet adds plush comfort to the bedrooms. The generous master bath boasts tile flooring along with double sinks.

See more Madison rental listings.

Richmond, VA

823 E Main St, Richmond, VA
For rent: $1,768/monthrichmond

You’ll love living in this high-rise space featuring stainless steel appliances, an in-home washer and dryer, and room for dining, along with 2 bathrooms. Bedroom closets feature double French doors and chrome finishes.

View more Richmond rentals.

Denver, CO

6950 E Chenango Ave, Denver, CO
For rent: $1,924/month


This home boasts a central living room, ensuring you won’t share a wall with your roommate. Each bedroom includes walk-in closets and carpet, while the living room features plank flooring and connects to the open kitchen.

View more rental listings in Denver.

Milwaukee, WI

425 E Menomonee St, Milwaukee, WI
For rent: $1,935/month

milwakeeThis airy loft comes with stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, a large balcony and chrome fixtures. Granite countertops and a tile backsplash provide the open kitchen with a stylish look.

See more Milwaukee rentals.

Minneapolis, MN

915 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis, MN
For rent: $1,950/month


This unit includes perks usually reserved for loft spaces, such as concrete flooring  and exposed air ducts. A large living room connects to the open kitchen, where all-white cabinetry and stainless steel appliances offer a clean look. A private balcony provides sweeping views of the complex, and each room includes a bathroom and walk-in closet.

See more listings in Minneapolis.

Atlanta, GA

600 Phipps Blvd NE, Atlanta, GA
For rent: $1,925/month


Floor-to-ceiling windows provide sweeping views of the surrounding city. Plank flooring throughout the living area seamlessly connects the room to the open kitchen, featuring an island equipped with a sink and dishwasher.

See more Atlanta rentals.

Philadelphia, PA

1512 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA
For rent: $1,886/month


Housed in a classic building but featuring modern flare, this large apartment includes several windows, a sprawling living area, and space to dine, along with classic fixtures and bathrooms with marble tiles.

See more Philadelphia rentals.


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How to Break Up With Your Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling a home rarely happens overnight, and it’s not uncommon for buyers or sellers to interface or even work with multiple agents. Best-case scenario, the right agent shows their face early, and the relationship (and transaction) is a huge success.

But it’s possible though that, along the way, you may find that your relationship with your real estate agent just isn’t working anymore. Maybe the agent is moving faster than you’d like. Or they’re not as available as you need them to be. Maybe they just don’t get you.

So what do you do? Is it OK to break up with your real estate agent? And if so, how can you gracefully end it?

The answer depends on whether you’re working with an agent as a buyer or a seller.

Advice for buyers

Real estate agents earn their commissions from sellers, and the money is split between the sellers’ and buyers’ agents. As a general rule, as a buyer, you won’t be asked to enter into a contractual or financial agreement with a real estate agent.

Instead, a buyer makes a (sometimes non-verbal) handshake agreement with the real estate agent. You’re basically agreeing to exclusively rely upon that agent. And that’s fair.

Agents often work hard and spend a lot of time engaging with buyers, watching the market, writing contracts, showing properties, reviewing disclosures, and so on. Imagine how they’d feel after spending months working with a client, only to be informed that another agent found them the home they want?

Before you shake hands, do your homework. Ask friends for references, and check out online agent reviews.

Going to open houses is a good way to meet and interview agents who work where you want to buy. Don’t jump in with the first agent you meet. Like any relationship, start slow and feel it out. It’s harder to break up with your agent if you have too deeply engaged.

If you’re not quite ready to be tied down, it’s better not to engage an agent until you are ready. Early on, a good real estate agent should read your situation well and provide the appropriate amount of attention as needed. They’ll act as a resource, and be available when you need them. Once the search kicks into high gear, agents and buyers will spend lots of time together and communicate 24×7.

If you do find that a relationship is not working, be honest and upfront before more time passes. Offer the agent constructive feedback about why it’s not working for you.

Advice for sellers

Since the seller pays the real estate agent’s commission, the brokerage requires the seller to sign a listing agreement upfront.  During the listing period, you’re contractually obligated to work exclusively with the agent and brokerage firm, specifically on the sale of your home.

In fact, even if you find a buyer on your own (such as a friend), the listing agent/brokerage firm is still due their commission.

Just as a buyer must do his homework, it’s even more important for a seller to do her research, given the commitment. Most listing agreements state that if the listing agent brings an offer at the listing price and the seller doesn’t accept it, the agent is still due a commission. This scenario happens sometimes when the listing agent and seller aren’t getting along.

In most situations, if the listing agent isn’t doing a good job but there’s still time left on the agreement, you should simply tell the agent it’s not working out. A good, fair and honest agent will apologize for not meeting your expectations and will agree to release you from the agreement ahead of schedule. But that’s not always the case, and sellers typically respond by no longer agreeing to open houses or considering offers from the agent.

Sometimes, an agent wants to break up with the seller. Maybe the seller insists on keeping the price of the home too high or isn’t cooperating to accommodate showings. The agent simply feels she can’t be successful with the seller, no matter how much time she puts into the job.

If you’re a seller whose agent wants out of the agreement because you aren’t taking the necessary steps to sell your home, it’s best to let them go – and to give serious consideration as to whether you’re really ready to sell or not.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Mother-In-Law Apartments Provide Benefits With Relative Ease

By Barry Bridges

The term “mother-in-law apartment” seems straight out of the Don Draper era – a sardonic reference to strained relations between married couples and parents. These days, many homeowners are turning to these separate-but-joined living quarters as a way to reduce friction in their daily lives, not increase it.

“Mother-in-law apartment” is one of the many nicknames for something known in government circles as an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU. They’re also called granny flats, garden suites, carriage houses and sidekicks. Whatever you call it, an ADU expands a home’s living space through renovation or by adding a separate structure.

The purposes and desired rewards of ADUs vary. You could use the extra space to house an aging family member, an arrangement that offers convenience, peace of mind and an alternative to pricey senior housing.

Got a Boomerang Kid who’s back at home after finishing college? An individual living space can supply some adult-level privacy as he or she figures out a career strategy.

For homeowners without familial obligations, renting out their ADU is a way to earn extra income.

The potential benefits of a mother-in-law apartment are clear. But before you start thinking about floor plans and furnishings, make sure you also have a clear understanding of the work involved

Get ready to spend

ADUs typically fall into two categories: attached (a converted garage or basement, for instance) or detached (such as building a free-standing cottage beside your home). Whichever route you take, be prepared to spend some money and navigate your way through some red tape.

The costs of planning, designing and constructing an ADU can vary a great deal, mainly depending on whether you want to add to an existing home or build from the ground up.

Building a standalone structure could cost $100,000 or more. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Converting a garage into a separate living space could cost as little as $40,000. Building a detached structure tends to be more expensive, with costs that could approach $100,000 or more. Advocates say prefabricated cottages offer an affordable option, but any ADU is a serious investment.

Think about how you plan to use the unit – as living space for a family member or as a source of income – and spend your money in the way that makes the most economic sense.

What about regulations?

Like any other living space, your ADU will have to comply with local and/or state housing regulations. Fortunately, many urban planners like the ADU concept because it can provide affordable housing options without the negative effects of large-scale residential developments.

In California, some state and local officials have even taken steps to ease restrictions on ADUs. For example, Placer County regulators voted earlier this year to decrease the minimum lot size for accessory units from 10,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet. And State Sen. Bob Wieckowski recently sponsored legislation that includes the elimination of certain fees.

Just like the cost of an ADU, the regulatory landscape can vary by location. Contact your city’s zoning department, or its equivalent, to learn about the requirements in your community.

Protecting your investment

The prep work doesn’t end with blueprints and building permits. You should also make a plan to insure your ADU so that the property and people have adequate protection.

Coverage options may vary by provider and policy, which makes it important to consult with your home insurance agent about questions, such as:

  • Will this unit need its own insurance or will your existing homeowners policy cover it?
  • What are the liability implications of adding an ADU to your home?
  • If you’re renting out the unit, will you need to get landlord insurance?
  • Should you require tenants to have renters insurance to help protect their belongings?

Consider the answers carefully, because they could directly influence your decision.

Don’t forget the due diligence

“Mother-in-law apartment” may have some snarky undertones, but a well-planned and well-executed ADU could seriously improve quality of life for you and your family.

Just make sure that you do your homework – exploring the costs, regulations and insurance requirements – before you start working on your home.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published May 3, 2016.

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Rufus Wainwright Buys an Enchanted Cottage in the Hollywood Hills

shutterstock_120394510 When Rufus Wainwright goes home at the end of a long day in the Southern California sun, a cozy, Hobbit-like world of cubbyholes and window nooks awaits.

The crooner recently bought a home in the Hollywood Hills that matches his creative soul, with a storybook footbridge and window seats with sylvan views. He paid $1.45 million for this 3-bedroom, 3-bath warren of enchanted spaces, which starts with a long stucco staircase leading to a half-oval front door.

A foyer with dark, exposed ceiling beams leads in four directions: To a sunny dining room, a tiled powder room, up winding stairs to the second story, or down winding stairs to a sunken living room. Topped by the same Tudor-like beams, the living space also features a fireplace, French doors and floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases.

Wainwright’s new kitchen is updated with a double-wide oven, a vast refrigerator and a farmhouse sink. It adjoins a breakfast nook with built-in seating, and the entire room is paved, like an outdoor garden, with gorgeous, slate paving stones.

Most rooms in the 2,100-square-foot home look out onto a forested landscape, and some offer doors that will take you there. There’s also a large outdoor deck for dining alfresco or taking in music.

The listing agent was Anita Rich of Keller Williams Realty. Hat tip to the Los Angeles Times for finding the transaction.


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Festive Porch Decorations That Go From Fall to Winter

If you delight in decorating your home for the season or the holidays, make sure you’re extending that festive feeling to the exterior, too. Specifically, your front porch. It’s the gateway to your home, after all.

“[Front porch decor] adds a homey touch,” says Whitney Johnson, the home editor for online retailer “It’s really welcoming, and shows people your personal style.”

Here are some go-to tricks home decor experts use to jazz up their own porches during the transition from fall to the winter holidays.

Accessorize base pieces

Transitioning into a new season doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your whole porch design. You can make a fall look move seamlessly into winter.

One of the best ways to do this is to use staple pieces that you can accessorize. For example, one of Johnson’s favorite tricks is filling oversized iron lanterns with seasonal items like leaves in the fall and switching to colorful ornaments in the winter.

You can keep a simple olive branch wreath on the door all year, and dress it up with a seasonally appropriate ribbon. Fill planter boxes with gourds and pumpkins or corn, then replace them with pinecones and evergreen or holly in the winter.

If you don’t have a large front porch, that doesn’t mean you can’t still make use of it. Chantal Lamers, the home editor for Sunset Magazine, suggests adding a rustic ladder where you can hang wreaths, garland, seasonal greeting signs, or string lights.

Similarly, a vertical wall garden is a trendy way to add greenery without taking up much floor space. Of course, simply using the sides of porch steps as decorative shelving is another option.

Pumpkins, post-Halloween

Pumpkins are a staple of fall decor, but you don’t have to leave them in the dust after Halloween (unless you carved them).

Leave out variously shaped and colored gourds and pumpkins through November. Johnson recommends decorating in odd numbers for visual interest and asymmetry.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Pumpkins, gourds, flowering kale, mums, and corn stalks come together for a gorgeous front porch display. Image courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Another creative way to use a pumpkin is to create a planter out of it by hollowing it out and inserting a flower pot inside (mums are a popular flower for fall). You can also poke round holes all over the pumpkin to create a non-Halloween lantern. But keep in mind that the pumpkin will start to deteriorate once you cut into it.

White pumpkins are a natural way to get a winter look. For a more glamorous feel, spray-paint pumpkins and gourds a metallic color.

Fall and winter plants

Design experts agree that adding some greenery to your porch is a must. Container gardens are an easy way to go.

“For fall, I like incorporating flowers because it’s the last chance,” says Justin Hancock, a horticulturist at the American Society for Horticultural Science and former editor at Better Homes and Gardens.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
A beautiful container garden that’s ready for winter and fits even a small front door area. Image courtesy of Dunn Gardens.

Hancock’s go-to frost-tolerant plants include:

  • Flowering kale. This hardy, showy cabbage can survive even into the 20-degree range. It looks like a flower and comes in a range of colors, including lavender, rose, white, yellow, and green.
  • Croton. A low-maintenance fall favorite, it has dark green, orange, red, and yellow leaves that are thick and leathery, so they hold up well in drought conditions (read: they’re good for people who forget to water their plants).
  • Ajuga. An herbaceous plant in the mint family that blooms tiny periwinkle flowers, it’s durable and great for containers.
  • Pansies and violas. These delicate-looking flowers can survive temps as low as 30 degrees.

If you don’t feel like dealing with live plants, Johnson says fake greenery is just fine. “I love artificial wreaths because I don’t have to buy a new wreath every season, and no one knows the difference.”

Found items

Some of the best design tools for fall and winter are totally free: tree branches and twigs – or “wintry scraps,” as Lamers calls them.

In the fall, he adds branches to container gardens to add structure; in the winter, he jazzes up the look by tying on ribbons or spray-painting them, or adding evergreen branches.

Red twig dogwood is also a favorite for its purple/red color. “They provide color without having to spray paint, and the color looks really striking in snow,” Hancock says.

Pine cones are another versatile found item. Hancock suggests baking them in the oven, which causes natural resins to leak out so they look glazed.

Birch logs also add a traditional holiday look.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Incorporate evergreen branches, birch logs, and spray-painted twigs into your porch decor. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Money-saving hacks

Beyond using branches and other found items, there are plenty of other ways to shave some dollars and cents off your decorating scheme.

Choose a decorating theme first, Johnson says, so you’re not buying “random things” you won’t end up using.

Check flea markets and Etsy for cheaper versions of items you love in pricier stores, advises Lamers.

Put your creativity to work, and you can create charming and festive porch decor to take you all the way through to spring.


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'Boy Meets World' Home All Grown Up, Ready to Sell

Here’s a home with a Cape Cod look that would be comfortable in any show from “Leave It to Beaver” through “Modern Family.” But the show that it was in — at least from the outside — was the millennial-beloved “Boy Meets World.”

Set on a gated, tree-lined lot in Studio City, this is the exterior of Cory Matthews’ childhood home. Inside, it spans 2,500 square feet, including 2 spacious bedrooms and 2 baths. A two-story guesthouse includes its own kitchenette and bath, plus an upstairs loft perfect for hanging out with Topanga.

Gorgeous California sunshine streams into the brick-floored sun room and the eat-in kitchen, which opens to a cozy den. The master suite boasts a fireplace and a private sundeck, plus an enclosed veranda that would make a perfect art studio.

Actor Joseph Campanella of “Marcus Welby, M.D.” and “One Day at a Time” fame is the current owner, asking $1.595 million in a listing by Lisa and Scott Sorrentino of Rodeo Realty.

Tool around the neighborhood with us:

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My Thoughts on the MSM Getting President Trump Elected and Then Some

Peter Thiel was right when he said that Trump supporters take him seriously, but not literally.

When it comes to reporting the news,  a presidential campaign and election is obviously news, the MSM (Main Stream Media) takes everything literally  and seriously. That is the definition of reporting isn’t it ?

There are 10s of millions of voters who probably preferred  to consume literal information from MSM sources they trust and processed it before they decided which Presidential candidate they  voted for.

There are 10s of millions of voters who probably preferred to consume other, non MSM sources of information.  It’s not that they don’t want literal information. It’s that they don’t trust traditional reporting sources, aka, MSM, aka Main Stream Media.

I don’t know how or why they developed this distrust of the MSM. But they certainly did and still do. They not only distrust the MSM, they seem to feel strongly that the MSM is controlled by forces that are intentionally trying to discredit the things they believe strongly in.

Who do they trust for their information ? Pretty much anyone and any outlet that recognizes and reveals the impurity of MSM outlets and reinforces the purity of their beliefs. It can be a neighbor, friend, relative, talk show host, website or information source, real or otherwise. It certainly was all the people who were at the rallys. You talk about creating a word of mouth network of support.  The rallys certainly succeeded there.

For the MSM literals, its “us vs them”, for the MSM haters , its “us vs them”

In this election there were more MSM “literals”, but the Trump campaign was a lot smarter and able to rally the MSM haters and turn them into Trump believers and voters in the states they needed them.

President Elect Trump won not because the media failed at their job or didn’t recognize something.  Donald Trump won precisely because the MSM did their job exactly as they expected they would and they used it to their advantage.

Every chance Donald got he would say things that his campaign knew would get the MSM all riled up. They knew exactly what they were doing. The more the media and people like me criticized Donald, the more it played right into their hands.  We were the bad guys. We didn’t get it.  We represented everything they wanted to change. We were the forces behind the corrupt media. The elites. The establishment. The suckers getting paid off by George Soros and foreign corrupt interests.

I was dumb enough to think I would be able to talk people out of voting for Donald Trump by detailing what I thought were his weaknesses. The Trump campaign had to be laughing at me and thanking me at the same time.  I approached my choice of candidates by consuming information literally.  That was my hammer and I tried to use it to make everything else look like a nail. I obviously was wrong.

Where Donald Trump was challenged, it wasn’t because of something he said on the campaign trail. It was something he said or did years ago. When there was hard evidence, it created question marks for even his staunchest supporters.  But for every hit he took, he was able to communicate to his followers that his opponent was far far worse than he ever could be.

She was a threat to their lives, their livelihood, their country.  It was clear to his supporters that he understood them and she was a threat. It was an easy choice to make. They both had issues. He could learn from his. She was a lying traitor that couldn’t be trusted and neither could anyone who supported her.  She would never be able to wash that off and be trusted and neither could the elites or special interests that wanted to help her take away his supporter’s liberties.

So here we are. We are going through a transition after which Donald Trump will be our President. Have I changed my mind about him ? Not yet. I’m willing to give him a chance. But I still don’t trust his temperament.  His tweets are risky in so many ways. That still concerns me. Bigly.

But he will be our President and I want him to succeed. But that isn’t the end of the story.  Recent history is repeating itself . As we speak.

The Trump team is once again brilliantly using MSM to their advantage.  They know that MSM will continue to be literal in their reporting, and the Trump transition team is grateful for it.

In looking at his actual and proposed appointments,  every one in the MSM, everyone who consumes their literal information from the MSM is freaking the fuck out.

Once again his voters are taking him seriously, but not literally. After all, he hasn’t taken office yet. How in the world does the MSM even know what is going to happen ? It’s just more confirmation that the MSM doesn’t get it. They don’t get us.  They are still out to get him and make him look bad. And when the MSM makes our President look bad, they make all of us that voted for him look bad. Which in turn makes his support from his voters even stronger.

When his transition team picked Flynn, Bannon, Sessions, they knew exactly how the MSM would react. They knew every single past issue each faced would surface.  From tweets to not being confirmed to breitbart news.  They could have picked any number of qualified candidates that didn’t carry that “baggage”.  But they chose them precisely because they had that baggage and of course because they were loyal to President Elect Trump.

Every bit of their histories  was  going to be taken literally and reported literally by the MSM.  And like in the campaign, I’m pretty sure that his supporters won’t care, a minority of his supporters will think of those issues as  positives,  and the Trump team will continue to be thankful for the MSM doing their jobs exactly how they expected them to.

It’s the perfect long-term setup for the new President and all those around him.  No matter what he does in office, unless it is demonstrably and verifiably dangerous to their way of life, the MSM media reporting on his Presidency is always going to be a plot against him.

They trust President Trump far, far more than they could ever trust anything the MSM says about him.  And they trust all the non MSM sources of information that again, unless there is something disastrous and undeniable, will say and write positive things about his Presidency.  What doesn’t work and isn’t disastrous is the fault of his predecessor and the establishment who continue to fill the swamp of DC and fight his every move. In fact, I would guess that they use all the negative articles during the transition as a way to convince those who didn’t vote for Trump, but may have been on the fence,as support for why they should support their new President.

The MSM doing their job is going to make President Donald Trump stronger than he was the day he was elected.

A couple more guesses and presumptions from my personal swamp:

1: My guess is that all the meetings with non-supporters are` “kiss the ring and kiss my ass meetings” and not true job interviews. Yes, there will be an exception or two. Or at least ones that look like they are a hiring of someone who didn’t support President Elect Trump’s campaign. But the reality of the situation is that it’s not about hiring those folks.  They give the President Elect and his organization the chance to say “see, I was open minded. I talked to everyone. Whether I agreed with them or not. But even when  you try to  take the establishment out of the Swamp, you can’t take the swamp out of the establishment.

More importantly, they give President Elect Trump the satisfaction of watching those like me who campaigned vocally against him, bend over,  and kiss his ring.  Touche’ President Elect Trump. Touche’

2:  As I said, I am very, very nervous about what he might say or tweet.  But I do have some confidence that like everyone before him, the office will change him. The non stop onslaught of challenges will focus him. He won’t have the time, energy or inclination to tweet simply because he is too busy. That is my hope.

3: I do understand the fear the uncertainty is causing minorities. They are rightfully terrified. I know I would be. My suggestion is to use the fear so many are feeling as a way to raise money for groups that protect those minorities.  Hopefully those funds and groups won’t be necessary and the fears will end up unfounded.

4: In supporting Sec Clinton, there were policies of hers I agreed with and policies I disagreed with. The same will apply to what appears to be his expected policies.  Socially, there is plenty I disagree vehemently with the far right about. I’m not yet convinced that all of our President Elect’s NY Values are gone. We will see.

Economically, there are positives in his plan to borrow at hopefully what will still be effectively less than 0 percent interest.  I think if they can take this approach rather than an infrastructure bank, it will pay off nicely in growth for the economy. I also believe that reducing corporate income taxes is good. But I’m a believer that they should be closer  to the 22 – 25pct range. That makes us globally competitive and hopefully allows for more re-investment by companies.

Finally I hope he takes a page from Sec Clinton’s small business agenda.  All the paperwork required, along with the many different fees that every different level of local government charges a new company, makes starting a business too difficult and stupidly expensive.  All of which combined to crush the incentive for an individual to start their own business.

If you are good at a trade, its ridiculously expensive to go out on your own. Every start up should be as easy as starting up a lemonade stand and cheap, if not free. Sec Clinton proposed that federal funds be used to buy out the many local, county and state fees that crushed small startups and to work to unify and simplify the paperwork required. Hopefully the Trump administration will take a close look at this.

5: I’m tired. So apologize for the typos and whatever else.  I’ll circle back tomorrow and fix the many grammatical and spelling errors I’m sure I left behind

6. Feel free to hate on me in the comments. I learn from the thought out disagreements and improve my temper from the over the top hate.


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